| U. Win Aung
New Delhi, Jan. 21: Myanmar — for years the preferred land for Northeast insurgents to set up training camps — has assured India that it will not allow any terrorist and anti-Indian activities from its soil.
The assurance came from visiting Myanmarese foreign minister U. Win Aung at a delegation-level talk last evening with external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha at Hyderabad House. The talks were followed by a dinner hosted by Sinha for his guest from Yangon.
The two sides formalised a structure by signing a protocol on foreign office consultation to discuss with each other at regular intervals important regional developments, particularly political and security-related issues. India and Myanmar also agreed to explore prospects of enhanced cooperation in hydroelectric projects, road construction and multi-modal transport.
The protocol was signed by Sinha and Win Aung after wide-ranging one-to-one talks and delegation-level discussions on the entire gamut of their bilateral relations.
The Myanmarese foreign minister’s visit is another indication of the growing ties between the two sides over the past few years. Win Aung met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today.
Myanmar has always been important for India. But the presence of the junta in Yangon has often been a stumbling block for Delhi to develop closer ties, especially since the generals had stifled the voice of democracy in the country and put Nobel Laureate Aun Sang Suu Kyi under house arrest.
However, certain developments over the past few years, such as Myanmar’s inclusion in the Asean, have created a situation where Delhi is not as embarrassed to work with Yangon. The junta’s decision to start informal discussions with Suu Kyi has also eased the tension somewhat.
Myanmar’s importance to India stems from a number of factors, one of the most important being its common boundary with the Northeastern states. In the past, this was a major concern for India as armed rebels of the Northeast often found safe haven across the border. However, over the past few years the State Development and Peace Committee in Yangon has been working closely with Delhi to tackle terrorist activities directed against India from Myanmarese soil.
The assurance given by the visiting foreign minister is a clear indication that there has been no shift in Yangon’s position on the issue. On the contrary, it is keen to develop strong bilateral relations with Delhi.
Myanmar also provides India with an alternative route to reach out to the Southeast Asian countries, which are important not only as a market for Indian goods but also as potential investors. India has been closely engaged with Myanmar and Thailand to develop the infrastructure there, particularly its road links and the port.
The two sides reviewed various projects, particularly in the energy sector. Possibilities for exploration of on-shore oil and gas reserves by India were among the things that were discussed. India is likely to extend a new credit line to Myanmar, while the latter has shown interest in closely cooperating with Delhi in the field of information technology.